Sunday 7 December 2014

Engibear’s Bridge

Engibear’s Bridge by Andrew King, illustrated by Benjamin Johnston (Little Steps Publishing)
PB RRP $24.95
ISBN: 9781925117059
Reviewed by Anne Hamilton

Brilliant, superb, ingenious… I am in danger of using up all my superlatives describing this book.

Ok, maybe I’m biased because of my background in mathematics. And maybe I was so startled by a story that departs from the usual themes and goes so far off the ‘beaten track’, it seemed like a refreshing and revitalising novelty. But I stand by my superlatives. A picture book that presents the basic principles of civil engineering in rhyming couplets, more than reasonable rhythm and detailed diagrammatic spreads is an exceptional achievement.

Yep, this is the book for all budding bridge-builders. It’s longer than the minimalist offerings so common today—and that makes it perfect in my view. As far as bedtime stories go, it’s an eminently satisfying Goldilocks length. Not too long, not too short—just right. It’s made for bonding and talking and discovering. And I can see it appealing hugely to dads and granddads as story-tellers, though it would be just as good in a school context.

A foot-bridge is needed in Munnagong. When Engibear present several designs to the school children, they choose an arch—because it looks like a dinosaur’s skeleton. Month by month, the bridge grows with the help of Engilina, the city’s Chief Engineer, as well as Bearbot and an occasional penguin. The detailed pictures will mean hours of absorbing fascination for the right kind of child.

Unusual and so very different from the usual picture book offered for children, this is an invigorating change. Lovingly detailed illustrations by Benjamin Johnston enhance the text. I spent ages on the ‘Construction Team Page’ which, I suspect, is meant more for adults than kids. I just loved the motto of the penguins.

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